The Hollow

Although Different Stages' production of Agatha Christie's mystery The Hollow demands all one's focus and concentration, its stylish design, strong acting, and surprises make it worth it in the end

Arts Review

The Hollow

The Vortex, through July 15

Running Time: 2 hrs, 35 min

Different Stages' production of Agatha Christie's murder mystery The Hollow has much to offer, but be warned that it requires you, as a viewer, to work harder than you might otherwise because the actors speak so quickly. It's as if they or director Norman Blumensaadt are worried that the audience is going to be impatient with the typical Christie wit, the characters' somewhat complicated relationships, or the detail inherent in any enjoyable mystery. This is true even at moments when it's quite clear that taking more time is required, and it's somewhat of a shame because taking the time necessary to turn all the corners in the story sharply would have added no more than five minutes to the running time. But while I had to muster my focus and concentration to keep up, it was worth it in the end. This is, after all, Agatha Christie, and the fact that I found myself guessing who the murderer was throughout and was highly disappointed when I thought – erroneously, as it turned out – that the story was going to end without offering this most necessary of revelations should tell you all you need to know.

One of the great pleasures of the production is its design. When you enter the theatre, you are transported into an English country sitting room, as set designer Paul Davis has provided everything you might require, from the antique furniture to the wooden floor to the fireplace to the console radio, gilded mirror, figurines, artwork, vases, flowers – it's all of a piece. Jeanette Driscoll's costumes only enhance the moneyed ambience, the men dapper in the daytime in well-cut suits and perfectly knotted ties, changing to tuxedos for dinner, and the women in soft, colorful fabrics when at leisure and in flattering formal wear later in the day. The design breathes class and style and supports the story in every imaginable way.

While Blumensaadt has opted for nontraditional casting, especially in terms of age, all the actors play gender-appropriate roles, and there's some excellent accent work on the part of most. This is particularly so of M. Phillip Weisman as the lord of the manor, Sir Henry Angkatell. While he's certainly helped by the design, Weisman looks and sounds like exactly what you would expect from a propertied English gentleman. Charles P. Stites plays Dr. John Cristow, the murder victim, and he's quite effective, as you know the moment he enters that someone's going to kill him. I wish I had room to mention most of the actors, as almost all of the performances offer something to recommend.

I haven't mentioned anything about the story, so here you are: A close-knit, wealthy English family invites two married friends to join them for a holiday at their country manor. One of the married couple has been having a longstanding affair with a family member and also ends up bedding an actress that lives nearby. Murder ensues. Everyone is suspect.

And I guarantee you won't guess who done it.

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The Hollow, Different Stages, Agatha Christie, Norman Blumensaadt, Paul Davis, Janette Driscoll, M. Phillip Weisman, Charles P. Stites

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